Friday, December 30, 2016

Halloween 2016: The Year of the Hollow...

   ...Sleepy Hollow that is! Finally getting around to posting about this year's Halloween haunt - and good timing too since this year is nearly out (finally)! Now, I don't normally stick to any particular theme when setting up my haunt (in fact I often combine several, a little eccentric, I know), but this year was an exception. As I was moving from one place to another last year, I wanted to make up for lost time by going all out this time around. In the midst of my planning and development, I came up with the idea to stick to one main theme that would tie all my ideas together - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. As Patrick and I had already decided to dress up as Katrina and Ichabod and were preparing our costumes, I finally thought about how neat it would be to focus the whole party and decor around this idea of welcoming our guests to a night in Sleepy Hollow. I suppose it doesn't help that working at Roger's Gardens gets you to think like that anyway... but I digress.

    First off, I'd like to talk costume: Katrina Van Tassel. Ever since I first watched Sleepy Hollow with my big brother back in the day I was taken with Tim Burton's styling and, of course, Colleen Atwood's work on the costumes throughout. But it wasn't until the ending of the film that I actually gasped when I saw the black and white dress. THE black and white dress. The dress of all dress. The costume of all costumes. It became my (unattainable) costume of choice/obsession.

   All these years it was the costume I wanted to wear on Halloween, but how? Would I buy it or make it? Material like that is expensive and the pattern - harder to find than you think. Not to mention I'm a no-sew costume improviser - definitely no costume designer, or let alone any (dare I say it) cosplayer. But this year I was determined to make it happen! Luckily I actually found a few black and white striped patterns, unfortunately neither were the right stripe width, so I decided to settle for smaller stripes rather than huge ones. 

   My make shift way of putting this together went like this: I got a long sleeveless dress to go over my crinoline, and a stretchy jacket from the thrift store, both of which I covered with the black and white stripe fabric (by covered I mean hot-glued. I hot-glued fabric to fabric, seam to seam. You heard that right). 

(Had to catch up on Stranger Things mid costuming, of course...)

   I also got a tulle bustle from Joann in their Halloween costume section to give the back of the dress that magical poof. That too I "covered" with fabric. This is where it started to look awful. The fabric, although great for covering other fabric as it was a thin t-shirt material, was very difficult to cover and drape over tulle. I wasn't surprised, of course, I had just hoped I could make it look at least decent, or close enough to the real thing. Just didn't come out very well... 

I did, however, enjoy the trim. A few options from Joann and soon it was looking like the real thing! Again, all hot-glued. 

After this strenuous hot-gluing, all I had left to complete was the bow for my hair. 

Of course the fit of the overall dress wasn't quite on point because let's just say my chest ruins everything. Either way, I'm just relieved I got it done in a somewhat decent fashion, ya know, considering all that hot glue.

(Here I am with my good friends Megan and Hayley on the night of the party.)


Thank goodness I have great friends like Hayley and Megan who support my Halloween obsession and join in on all the fun!

Patrick on the other hand was practically made to wear the fine menswear of the late 18th century, so he looked perfect!

Despite my costume mishaps, I was still very happy to wear it, and celebrate Halloween in character. Let us all agree: dress up is a blast!

Now for the haunt... 

Anyone who has seen photos of my past Halloween's is very familiar with most of the decor I reuse and rearrange each season. This year, I tried to mix it up just a bit more. 

   I wanted the concept for the theme/party to feel like a night spent in Sleepy Hollow, much like the party Ichabod stumbles upon when he first arrives in Sleepy Hollow in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow as well as the gathering he attends in Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. An innocent celebration indoors, but an eerie and omniscience lurking just outside in the full-mooned autumn night.

"Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power that holds a spell over the minds of the descendants of the original settlers. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions."

For the entry, I wanted to keep things simple. Spooky, but autumnal. Also helpful to create the mood was the weather - a cool and chilly Halloween. Haven't had one of those in years, so this was a real treat!


   Wish I had had time to get cornstalks, but at least hay, a few pumpkins, some wooden crates, and some bundles of Indian corn would do. Threw a few lanterns out there with my old scarecrow and very spooky gravestones, and low and behold it felt New England-y.

(Really wish I had time to make these Puritan-like gravestones, though. I suppose I was very inspired by the Legend of Sleepy Hollow Haunt, check it out if you haven't already! Now those are some gravestones!)

   Created a few new stick poppets to hang outside in our courtyard along with some Spanish moss, just to give the entry a spooky feel. Tried to add some feathers and extra string to make them look more witchy, somewhat inspired by these - bones, too, would be a great idea!

   Inside, I wanted the first thing guests to see upon entering be my Welcome to Sleepy Hollow sign in hopes they'd feel transported there. I saw this awesome tutorial on creating one based on the real deal and felt I could do something similar - but had to add the notorious silhouette of the Headless Horseman on there... because obviously.

I am no painter, nor illustrator so this was actually pretty challenging for me as you can see from my eraser marks, but for the most part I just tried copying something similar to thisthis, and my beautiful Headless Horseman done by Silhouettes by Jordan:

And, with a few left over gold letters from the good old days of Avery Parrish Thieves...

...I had me a sign!

Fiona Goode approves. I think.

Also I loved reusing one of my old lanterns with cutouts - reminded me of the spinning one in Sleepy Hollow. (Anyone know where I can get one more similar to the one in the movie?)

   Throughout, I wanted to create designated/thematic areas for certain characters; a witch's den for the Crone (the eerie witch from Sleepy Hollow, who I went as for Halloween some moons ago - so luckily I still had the costume for my witch prop-to-be), a work place for Ichabod Crane, and a special spot for the Horseman to watch over the party goers.

"The Pickety Witch, the Pickety Witch, who's got a kiss for the Pickety Witch?"

   Decoupaging the witch's face to our mirror was one of my mom's tricks and it came out great! She printed out a large/life size photo of the crone - a still from Sleepy Hollow - and pressed a sheet of contact paper on it. Then she cut around the image a bit so it wouldn't be a square, soaked it in water, and pressed it against the glass and let it dry. Because contact paper is basically a clear sticker the image stayed put on the mirror really well. After, we just used double sided tape to stick black cheese cloth all about the mirror to frame her. Thought it would be another great reminder that the witch's den is just around the corner...

   Since we were sticking with the headless motif, I thought it'd be cool to put the old witch's head in her own crystal ball, sort of a Madame Leota meets Sleepy Hollow kind of twist. It wasn't too difficult either, just took a ratty blonde wig from the thrift store, a black balloon for the shape of her head, and a plain white mask, which I painted to look at least somewhat like the witch's scratched up face...

... and into a fish bowl she went!

Meanwhile in Ichabod's study...

Ichabod took notes (amongst some relics from years past along with the addition of his favorite optical illusion trick - cardinal, cage, and all), unaware of who watched overhead! (Overheadless? ...Sorry)

   Putting the horseman together was a bit tricky, but very fun. I took one of my mannequins, gave him some chicken wire arms, stuffed some red tissue around the neck for texture, and used fake styrofoam hands to fill the black gloves (had to pull them apart and basically put them back together inside the glove, but oddly that made it look more realistic). The black outfit was a total thrift store score! I walked into Goodwill, who is always awesome and sets up a huge Halloween section each year, and there before me was this gem for just 12 bucks - a lacy black blouse with an attached cape!

   Much like my Billy Butcherson costume, I used some scissors to rat up the material and dry brushed some paint on it to give it some texture. After that, I propped his arm up with a wooden pole based out of some sturdy floral foam, and placed a burnt-looking carved pumpkin in his hand.

 I think it turned out alright...

Overall this was the year to honor Sleepy Hollow - not sure why, just felt it had to be done - and I really enjoyed putting it together. 

Fiona Goode and Cocoa Bean sure are looking forward to planning next year, and so am I! 
2017, let's do this!

View the rest of the photos from my Sleepy Hollow haunt here!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dear Debbie Reynolds,

   You were wonderful in every role, but your performance in, of all things, Halloweentown will always be a treasure to me. Everyone who knew my grandmother (who died long before I was born) told me you were the spitting image of her in that film, not only in looks, but in character. Your performance as Aggie Cromwell brought to life the things that I hold so dearly to my heart today; adventure, courage, tradition, and of course love. Not to mention a passion for my favorite holiday, Halloween, another thing you had in common with my grandmother Beverly, so I am told. I guess in a way I looked up to you as an actress and to your interpretation of Aggie the way a young girl might her grandmother, and why wouldn't I considering I grew up with you and not her. Funny, odd, I know. But these are the things I wanted to tell you my whole life, but I now accept that I won't get to. I wish you a peaceful transition knowing you are with your beloved wonderful daughter Carrie. The strong connection you share only proves you really were the amazing loving woman I believed you to be. And even though watching Halloweentown will never quite be the same, I look forward to the motherly encouragement you offer each year - you know, where my obsession for Halloween gets rather abnormal, and you kindly remind me that being normal really is in fact vastly overrated. Thank you for always reminding me to be myself. Rest in peace. Thank you, thank you, thank you.